Defrocked New Hampshire priest arrested for embezzling funds
CONCORD, New Hampshire, April 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent New Hampshire priest has been defrocked and put under house arrest over an embezzlement scandal involving his homosexual partners.
The Diocese of Manchester announced last week that the Vatican dismissed Edward J. Arsenault III from the clerical state effective February 28.
In addition to having been the face of the Church in the state during a local sex abuse scandal, he had a role in establishing the Church’s child protection policies in the U.S. and risk management for dioceses nationwide in response to the clergy sex abuse scandal.
The former monsignor now “has no faculties to act, function, or present himself as a priest” according to the diocese’s April 7 statement. The notification indicated the diocese would not comment further.
Arsenault was convicted in 2014 of stealing $300,000 from a hospital, the local bishop and a deceased priest’s estate.
“Dismissing a priest from the clerical state is very serious and taken very seriously by the Holy See,” said Father Georges de Laire, the diocese’s vicar for Canonical Affairs.
Father de Laire had informed Arsenault of the decision the day before the diocese’s announcement last Friday, the Associated Press reported.
“It is not a decision that is reached lightly as it implies pain for the former cleric and those who may have been affected by him,” he said.
Arsenault had pleaded guilty to all three theft charges against him.
Specifics included Arsenault billing the New Hampshire diocese $184,000 for extravagant meals and travel for himself and often a male partner, along with cell phones and computer equipment during the time he was a top aide to then-Bishop John McCormack.
He wrote checks to himself and his brother totaling $23,000 from the estate of Msgr. John Molan and also billed Catholic Medical Center in Manchester $250 an hour for consulting work that he never did totaling $104,000.
Arsenault held several high-ranking positions for the Diocese of Manchester between 1999 and 2009.
As Bishop McCormack’s media spokesman, Arsenault managed a major clergy sex abuse crisis that erupted in New Hampshire in 2003 involving 83 victims.
Arsenault became president and CEO of Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., in 2009. He resigned from St. Luke Institute in 2013 after allegations involving his misuse of Church funds and for others over an “inappropriate adult relationship.”
St. Luke’s is a prominent mental health treatment facility specializing in Catholic clergy and in particular those afflicted by sex abuse tendencies. The Maryland-based facility has two other U.S. sites and one in England.
ChurchMilitant.com reports that the facility is controversial for its founding by an openly homosexual priest and also because it uses homosexual and pedophilia-affirming theories and treatment techniques involving pornography.
St. Luke Institute was one of the defendants in a 2013 lawsuit alleging abuse by a priest after he was treated at the facility and released back into ministry.
The plaintiff’s attorney stated at the time of St. Luke’s, “They give priests ‘fit-to-serve’ labels that the bishops then use to continue the systemic pattern of secrecy.”
A priest defrocked by Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl who refused to undergo treatment at St. Luke’s because it “derided his faith” later had his laicization reversed by the Vatican, according to the media outlet.
At least three priests have committed suicide there.
State health officials cited the facility in 2009 for safety problems that were “serious in nature” after one suicide. The two other previous suicides occurred in 2001 and 2002. St. Luke’s was cited at the time for failing to report to police disclosures of suspected clergy sex abuse in instances where the alleged incidents occurred outside of Maryland.
Arsenault has been ordered to make full restitution for the $300,000 in embezzled funds. He is up for parole in February 2018 but could face an additional two years from a deferred sentence.